Reflection #7 – Autobiography

“What hidden messages are now visible to you in what you could offer as your autobiography? For example, what does it mean that you did not address your gender, or your sexuality or your racialization as important or constitutive of your identity? Take Kumashiro seriously – “We need to be examining our lessons and lenses, their political implications, and possible alternatives…. we need to put front and center the very things we do not want in our … (autobiography), the very things we do not even know are in our … (autobiography).”

In my autobiography I spoke about my class and my race as a part of being privileged, because I grew up in a middle class family I was able to access materials that improved my educational experience in and outside of school. My social class also ensured that my immediate needs were taken care of and I could focus on learning. While my family was not particularly well off, we had it better than others. Teachers never looked at me as if I was underprivileged and I think that effected how they treated me. Often students live up to what is expected. Our financial standing and my parent’s attempts to give me a better life than they had growing up resulted in me being able to work toward the goal of going to university from a very young age. My race coincides with what being middle-class allowed. I am white, so I am privileged as a member of the dominant group. The system was designed for someone like me, someone white.  

I didn’t speak as much about my gender or my sexuality. As a female I have been groomed a certain way and as someone who identifies as “straight” my sexuality is also part of the socially accepted and dominant group. I fit into the norms of being a female in my society. I never had to think about gender so much because I am part of the dominant classification. Being part of a dominant group meant never having to be made uncomfortable for what/who I am in relation to the categories of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. At school this looked like me being, for the most part, accepted by my peers. It also looked like teachers expecting me to be mature and well-mannered. My privileged place in fitting into gendered norms helped me be a “good” student. In my journey to becoming a teacher I’m sure I was also influenced by the number of female teachers I had. It was easy to see how I could fit into the teaching profession. Being a straight woman I also fit into the dominant classification for sexuality. In this way I was able to be well received be my peers and see teacher role models that were like me.

What it means that I didn’t add this to my autobiography is that as part of my privilege I have never had to identify myself by my gender or my sexual orientation and because I fit into generalized norms of gender and sexuality I never had to be othered or made uncomfortable by curriculum. I never had to feel the disadvantages of being othered or not hearing a narrative that reflected my own in my education. I also never had to be defined as different because of my race, class, gender, and/or sexuality. Because of my position in the dominant groupings of each classification I could be sort of seen as neutral and thus it was my actions and choices that defined me instead. My identity got to be untouched by my experience as raced, classed, gendered and sexed. This is uncomfortable because it can be difficult to admit that I have been privileged by things out of my control and others have been disadvantaged because of things out of their control. It can be diffifult to say that I have benefited by systems that oppress others. It can be difficult to say that my own journey was shaped by role-models and narratives reflected me when I now aim to challenge those narratives. The fact that some things are so normalized makes it challenging to see and when they are uncomfortable as well it is easier to ignore them, but in order to challenge issues of social justice I have to see my identity completely and how all aspects have affected my journey.


Response #6 – Curriculum as Productive Learners

What does it mean to be a “good” student according to the commonsense?

According to the commonsense to be a good student means to be able to take in the prescribed knowledge and reproduce the right answer on assignments and exams. To be a good student means to accept only certain ways of knowing that are viewed as most important in traditional classrooms. The commonsense knowledge is aligned with what is seen as mattering most in mainstream schools and society. To be a good student means to follow such teachings the way tradition asks students to.

Which students are privileged by this definition of the good student? Which are oppressed and left out?

Students that are able to conform to the commonsense ways of learning and students that have previous knowledge that is parallel to what is taught in mainstream schools are privileged. Students who are unable to be the kind of student commonsense dictates they should be and students that have knowledge that conflicts with what is taught in schools are oppressed and disadvantaged.

What does Kumashiro mean when he talks about learning through crisis?

Kumashiro means that when learning about something you might face a moment when what you previously believed is disproven or questioned and you have a crisis in which you have to work through the new knowledge in conjunction with the old knowledge. Entering into crisis happens when we begin to question troubling knowledge.

How do you see yourself taking this up in your future classroom?

Because this is an area of education that I have already been trying to better understand and figure out ways of being a learner and ways of teaching that don’t just allow there to be one type of good student, I can see the ideas Kumashiro presents as being quite helpful. In my English classrooms I could see myself applying concepts that may be troubling and cause crisis’ in students that allow them to further their understanding in more than just the “single correct way”. I think having this discussion about what it means to be a good student could be important, because as a student I have at times felt as if what I really thought or wondered about didn’t matter because it wasn’t what I needed to work on to get a good grade. I think introducing opportunities to question what we know and what we’re learning would be important and useful in a classroom.

How does the idea of teaching in uncomfortable ways conflict with or support the ways of teaching that are made possible by the curriculum (as we discussed in lecture last week)?

I think it supports working through issues of oppression embedded in the education system and I think it conflicts with specialized knowledge, because it is questioning what we know and hold to be correct and good. I think that conflict is important, because it works to make as question what is uncomfortable.

Assignment 2 Part 2: Critical Response

Part 2: Critical Response

Of the ten articles I found two, in particular, that stuck out to me both because I connect to them personally and I believe they have strong connections to each other. I connect to the article, “Teaching in the Undertow: Resisting the Pull of School-As-Usual” by Gregory Michie, as a future educator.  I specifically connected to the challenge of trying to teach anti-oppressive education while resisting being swept into the conventions of education. I also connected to the article “‘Brown Kids Can’t Be in Our Club’: Raising Issues of Race with Young Children” by Rita Tenorio, as a future educator interested in dealing with issues that maintain and recreate social injustice. I found that the article by Tenorio raised a specific goal that I need to keep in sight while I resist the “pull of the undertow” described in the article by Michie. In both articles I connected to the text through ideas that personally resonated with me, but I also looked at ideas that made me question what I know and believe. Together I have gained a deeper understanding of what I believe and how that will affect my education and future as an educator.

In “Teaching in the Undertow: Resisting the Pull of School-As-Usual” I connected with the experience shared in the text through my own experience as an education student and what I am preparing to do. In this article Michie compares currents in the ocean to schooling, he does this by describing an ‘undertow’, which is unseen, but can pull you away if you aren’t consciously working to resist it (43-44). He says that schools can produce an environment that, especially for novice teachers, makes it easy “to be seduced by the pull of convention or expediency or outside demands” (44). I relate to this because it is difficult to enter a new place and new group of people and not get sucked into trying to fit in and be accepted. As a new teacher I imagine it will be difficult to feel confident in  my resistance and the thought of doing things that go against the school culture and convention can be overwhelming. Michie also provides ways to resist that pull, which I can see as being manageable for a new teacher who is “working for justice” (45). From the article I find that taking time to see what I have been successful in will help me continue to resist oppressive conventions. Looking deeper at the text I ran into issues that I had to struggle with.

Some of the challenging or troubling ideas I had about “teaching in the undertow” were realizations about my beliefs and ideas of practice. First, as an introverted person, I find it difficult to fully accept the idea that I can’t do everything on my own. Connecting with colleagues is practical and helpful, but I recognize that it may be difficult to create supportive alliances in my first year, especially if none of the teachers share the same ideas I do. I wonder how much I would be able to do without a strong support system. In conjunction with this somewhat small issue I was trouble by another issue. What makes it so easy to go with the current?

I believe it comes from some deeply embedded issues. I have grown up in a multicultural country, but it is also a country that has a long history of systemic racism. Issues around race are a constant narrative we hear throughout our society. The current is powerful, because education has been pushing in certain direction since its establishment. In this way education has been used as a tool for oppression, which can be a hard idea to accept. Therefore it is easier to ignore. It is easy to believe that you are providing equality in education while teaching to convention if you don’t question the ways that schooling is oppressive. On the other end of a system that is oppressive for marginalized groups, is the privileging of another group. The dominant social group is favoured and actually benefits from a system that only speaks to one way of knowing in line with the dominant narrative. As a part of the dominant social group, which I am a part of simply because I was born white, I have been given privilege. Resisting the undertow will also mean giving up privilege, which is easier said than done. The idea of having unearned privileged based on race is hard for me to come to terms with. It is my responsibility and hope as a future teacher to work against the conventions that maintain oppression, which is why I found this article was interconnected to the article on teaching about issues of race.

From the article “’Brown Kids Can’t Be in our Club’: Raising Issues of Race with Young Children” I related to the ideas presented by Tenorio, because of the community I grew up in and the negative view about racial differences that are a part of that community and are more broadly a part of a racist society in general. I also connected with the idea that I will be able to make changes as long as I keep working toward social justice, building alliances with similar goals and expanding my awareness and understanding. More troubling ideas I dealt with were how the narratives presented in the playground bullying of different races in the article mirrored the narratives that played out in my community and thus (however unwelcome) play out in the back of my mind. I realized that part of being raised in a racist society means I can’t unhear those racist narratives supported by stereotypes and a complicated history. I can however challenge them and teach against them and provide awareness to my students about issues of race (Tenorio 83-91).

            I found these two articles of particular resonance to me because they deal with an important part of my journey as a future educator. I connect to Teaching in the Undertow, because I am preparing to become a teacher and this article speaks to the issue of resisting convention while attempting to teach for social justice. And more specifically I can connect to teaching about issues of race in the latter article as it is an important part of learning to teach anti-oppressively and because issues of race are a prominent aspect of my society. I have been able to connect with both, but have also worked with some troubling knowledge that arose from both. Issues with why it will be so challenging not to teach to convention and how racist narratives are a part of the society I belong to help me form a goal of what to work on. I know my responsibility to both in the vein of teaching against oppression, but there is still troubling knowledge that I will have to work through.


Works Cited

Michie, Gregory. “Teaching in the Undertow: Resisting the Pull of Schooling-As-Usual.” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 43-51. Print.

Tenorio, Rita. “‘Brown Kids Can’t Be in Our Club’: Raising Issues of Race with Young Children.” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 83-91. Print.

Assignment 2 Part 1: Article Summaries

Teaching in the Undertow: Resisting the Pull of School-As-Usual

In this article Gregory Michie discusses how new teachers can be caught up in the pull of the undertow of education. It is important to keep your goals and beliefs in sight so that you have a reminder of where you want to be going. Michie outlines five parts to help resist the pull: make allies and build support, start small by first building an environment that supports social justice, make content manageable by starting with one subject, balance freedom and control by putting freedom into practice, and hold onto hope by seeing your successes. Once in the ocean of education it is easy to lose sight, so it is important to break up your goal into manageable pieces of action that will work towards the bigger picture. (Michie 43-51).

‘Brown Kids Can’t be in Our Club’: Raising Issues of Race with Young Children

            In this article Rita Tenorio discusses her experience with teaching about issues of race. Because we live in a society where racism is prevalent and therefore young children are aware of racial differences it is important to deal with these issues in the classroom. Students can explore similarities and differences, their attitudes about race and differences, and gain the tools to challenge assumptions and understand other people’s perspectives. From this type of education students will ideally internalize anti-racist ideas and come to see that they have the ability to make a difference in society. (Tenorio 83-91).

Q/A: What can I do when a student makes a racist or sexist remark?

            Important to providing the correct answer in this scenario is to remember that curriculum is made up of “everything that happens” while at school, because children learn from formal and invisible curriculum. Such opportunities should be tackled as teachable moments and not disciplined outbursts. Rita Tenorio says to talk openly about the issue and notice who has said it, but also who is affected by it. Talk about how such statements make you feel, defend the group/person being insulted, allow the class to respond in the same way in order to dissect the issues bound up in insults. (Tenorio 93).

Framing the Family Tree: How Teachers Can Be Sensitive to Students’ Family Situations

            Sudie Hofmann discusses the diversity of family situations and how school activities and classroom projects can be painful or hurtful for students whose family situation does not fit into the norm favoured in these activities/projects. All people have to work as advocates for all variations of the family units that exist, because it can be hard for marginalized people to speak out and because it is important for everyone to work toward equity. In this part of the journey of exploring diversity it is also important to see other people’s perspectives to gain knowledge that will help improve the current situation. (Hofmann 95-99).

Heather’s Moms Got Married

            In this article Mary Cowhey uses examples from her own classroom experience with diverse families and using that to teach about equity and respect for all types of families. She notes that often the issues of family diversity come up spontaneously, but that controversial issues are often not comfortably taught in younger grades in education. It is important to discuss diversity and allow students to provide different perspectives ultimately creating an environment through word choice, activities, materials, content and questioning of the issues around family diversity that provided equality and respect to every family. (Cowhey 103-110).

Out Front

            In this article Annie Johnston articulates how to create a school culture that is open and safe for queer students from the perspective of an openly gay educator. Johnston discusses how all teachers can provide support and make the situation better in schools. She talks about how organized groups are important for providing support, but how it is also important that a standard is set in all classrooms. It is necessary for queer teachers to be able to be “out” so that they can provide a role model for students. It is also necessary for language boundaries to be discussed and set throughout the whole school so that the anti-slur and anti-homophobic ideas are reinforced. Ultimately Johnston concludes with the idea that the support of all teachers is important. (Johnston 111-121).

‘Curriculum Is Everything That Happens’: An Interview with Veteran Teacher Rita Tenorio

            In this interview Rita Tenorio answers questions focused around issues that face teachers and ways new teachers can navigate through issues in education. Since school cannot be separate from the rest of the world teaching students is academic, but it is also preparing them to be active and engaged members of our society. Teachers have to be aware and be active in finding allies that can be helpful in expanding their awareness about the lived realities of their students, because curriculum goes far beyond what’s written down, it’s the relationships, attitudes, feelings and interactions of the classroom and between the student and the teacher. (Tenorio 163-167).

Working Effectively with English Language Learners

            In this article Bob Peterson and Kelley Dawson Salas discuss the responsibility of teaching English language learners and ways that are most successful. This work includes seeking resources that will give them support they need, provide class lessons ahead of time to prepare them, don’t ask if they understand in front of the class, use visual clues over verbal, have them repeat the information back in their own way, provide many attempt at success and a low-stress environment and support their first language, learn parts of their culture/language. It is important to be interested in the students and to actively seek out extra-support for them. (Peterson & Salas 183-187).

Teaching Controversial Content

            Kelley Dawson Salas speaks to the challenges of bringing what we learn about teaching anti-oppressively and the subjects that are controversial to the real world classroom. Salas discusses the need to find approval, but realized the controversial topics she was teaching in her classroom were ok. She found that having open communication with parents was helpful and was prepared to answer questions and hear criticism, but the curriculum supported her choices. Not everyone will be excited about the work teachers do in anti-oppressive education, but it is very important work and there is support out there to help teachers teach controversial content. (Salas 199-205).

Unwrapping the Holidays: Reflections on a Difficult First Year

            Dale Weiss gives a first-hand account of trying to increase awareness of diversity in his school but he also shares the mistakes he made and learned from. Weiss engaged in a controversy over the way holidays were being celebrated at his school, which was in a way that favoured Christian beliefs. Weiss meant to question the biases and have a larger representation of diversity introduced to the school. He acknowledges that he should have spent a year keeping his practices in his classroom and later introduced the subject before the holiday season so others might be more accepting of what he had to say. Weiss maintains that the work of bring awareness still needs to be done, just more carefully. (Weiss 317-326).


Works Cited

Michie, Gregory. “Teaching in the Undertow: Resisting the Pull of Schooling-As-Usual.” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 43-51. Print.

Tenorio, Rita. “‘Brown Kids Can’t Be in Our Club’: Raising Issues of Race with Young Children.” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 83-91. Print.

Tenorio, Rita. “Q/A What can I do when a student makes a racist or sexist remark?” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 93. Print.

Hofmann, Sudie. “Framing the Family Tree: How Teachers Can Be Sensitive to Students’ Family Situations.” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 95-99. Print.

Cowhey, Mary. “Heather’s Moms Got Married.” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 103-110. Print.

Johnston, Annie. “Out Front.” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 111-121. Print.

Tenorio, Rita. “‘Curriculum is Everything That Happens’: An Interview with Veteran Teacher Rita Tenorio.” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 163-167. Print.

Peterson, Bob and Kelley Dawson Salas. “Working Effectively with English Language Learners.” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 183-187. Print.

Salas, Kelley Dawson. “Teaching Controversial Content.” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 199-205. Print.

Weiss, Dale. “Unwrapping the Holidays: Reflections on a Difficult First Year.” The New Teacher Book. Ed. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd, 210. 317-326. Print.

Response #5 “Three Teacher Images in U.S. Teacher Education Programs”

Of the three teacher images Kumashiro outlines in chapter one of Against Common Sense, I feel that of teachers as learned practitioners best describes my own teacher education so far. In this kind of preparation Kumashiro found that teacher education students need to learn three main things (p. 6).

The first is learning about students: who they are, how the develop, and how they learn. Mostly this is provided in the form of learning about psychology and also, to a lesser extent, student differences. So far in my experience I have learned about the psychological theories that affect who students are and how they will be in classroom environments. For example, I have learned about Brofennbrenner’s theory about the different systems that shape who people become. This influences me to look for understanding about students through their environment and also seeing how they are and theorizing about their environment. From my understanding based on this subject I suppose I am to alter my teaching methods to suit individual students. In my experience a great amount of understanding students has developed around seeing and understanding peoples differences and what that means in the context of our society. This aspect of my education is meant to fit me with a “foundational knowledge” if you will and also provide me with lenses that help me see oppression as experienced by my students.

Secondly, I am learning a specific area, that is to say as an English major, English is my field of study in education. This type of education puts me on track to becoming an English teacher, although I know I may never teach in my major area of study. Kumashiro notes that none of the programs he researched had the fields of study relate back to the topic of anti-oppressive education (p. 7). I can see that this is true in my own experience. My English (and minor, Math) studies have, so far, been completely separate from the topics discussed in my education studies. When I am studying English I am not learning to see literature from different perspective as I am told to do in my education studies. I do not see queer identities or the narratives of oppression in my literature classes and I have never been encouraged in those classes to explore such ideas. This represents a disconnect between my field of study in English and my studies of anti-oppressive education.

Thirdly, Kumashiro says students learn how to teach in a classroom. He says that often it is taught by blending theory and practical experience (p. 7). In my educational experience I have been provided some theories and methods about good teaching, I have been taught that there is not one correct way and you must learn to be reflective and find different methods that work for you and your students. Often I have been encouraged to blend methods that speak to diversity in the classroom and honour many different ways of knowing. My classroom studies have been paired with fieldwork experience that allows me to see how real classrooms are functioning. I was asked to notice what and how methods are used to provide an anti-oppressive education. On the one hand I have been given an education that details for me the importance of teaching responsively and anti-oppressively, but in some foundational ways I am still being told that there are good ways of teaching that are not quite questioning common sense to the extent they could be. This is representative of the difficulties that can be found in trying to teach education students into becoming learned practitioners.

In summation, my education is directing me to become a teacher for social justice, but there are still some issues that arise in any education program. Kumashiro says that it is important for teachers to know their limits of knowledge (p. 7). By only providing specific psychology knowledge only certain ideas are being privileged, which doesn`t allow me to find many different insights into the psychologies of education. Also, having standards in my specialized area of English can work against my understanding of anti-oppressive education; it is important and necessary to make connections and see different ways of knowing in my specialized field. Learning to become a learned practitioners is, in some ways, helping me to learn how to teach anti-oppressive education, but it is also not taking advantage of troubling knowledge; so that I will be educated to see knowledge that is troubling and oppressive, but also be able to see the ways oppression works even in that body of knowledge and always digging deeper. (Kumashiro 8-10)

Kumashiro, Kevin K.  Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice.  New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.

Week 4 Response

Male connections between the conversations we have been having in class and the argument of the article. How do you see yourself teaching treaties, and for what reasons?

The dominant narratives that are privileged in a lot of curriculum material only provide one way of knowing, only provide one viewpoint of history, and thus unconsciously tell students that it is the most important perspective. Treaty education and Native Studies are options that are often down graded in importance, thus telling a social narrative that “their” history is not a part of dominant society, nor is it as important. These ideas further embed oppression and marginalization into society and education. By not teaching treaties we’re denying that the treaties go two ways.

I would personally hope to teach treaties in ways similar to how guest speaker Claire Kreugar shared with the class. I think it is vital to get students to recognize our history from different perspectives, understand what the treaties outlined and how they have been carried out into the present, and I believe that it would be relevant to understanding the information by connecting it to where we are now and have the students be able to see the effects of treaties. I think it is important to remember that all people of Canada are treaty people and what happened in the past is effecting our present and our future and therefore it is our responsibility to have a full treaty education.

Week 3 Response

What does race mean in this textbook [Painter (1886). A History of Education]? What does it mean that teachers are being taught to think in racial terms? What are the effects of teaching teachers to think in this way?

In the textbook from 1886 race meant segregation and differential treatment based on physical appearances. In such terms physical appearance constructed different races in the human race. The segregating of groups of people into races made stereotypes into commonsense idea of what defined a race of people. In education the different races were ranked as good and bad and effected the treatment each received in their education.

Teachers who were taught to see race in these ways would have entered the profession believing race dictated students potential and would’ve effected the way they treated the students. The way teachers are now taught to think about race helps us see the inequality in education and society that come from past views of race. Learning about race and the race in the historical context of education helps us learn how to teach toward social justice.